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Skaggs: Plan your plant buying to keep nice color around

POSTED: April 1, 2008 5:00 a.m.

The normal way of buying flowering plants tends to produce landscapes with three stages every spring: a glorious flash, a fizzle and wait-till-next-year. It seems to happen almost every year.

Anxious gardeners go on a buying frenzy, looking for anything and everything in bloom.

Trying to buy out the garden center on a single visit isn’t all bad — it’s certainly welcomed by the nursery and garden center owners.

And, spring is the best time of the year to buy spring-blooming plants. You can see the plants in bloom and tell if they’re the colors you have in mind.

Spring buying sprees have drawbacks, though. The first is how quickly the color fades after you get home. Many people do not realize that when you buy that plant and take it home in its peak of color, within a week or so those blooms will be gone until next year.

Installing blooming plants can shock them and further shorten their display. You can stretch the blooms out a few more days if you just put them where you want them, still in their containers, and keep them watered until the blooms drop. Then plant them.

One of the biggest drawbacks to one-day spree-buying is that when you buy many kinds of plants in their peak of bloom, you can expect them to all bloom together next year and for years to come.

The result is a real splash of color that lasts a week or two, but a somewhat drab landscape for the rest of the spring.

Perhaps a better idea is to simply spread out your landscape purchases. Why not visit the garden center once a month during the spring to buy plants that bloom at different times?

Nurseries and garden centers know you’re going to do that. They bet the business on it every spring. And they’re going to keep plants in a peak of color for as long as they can. One way they do that is with different varieties.

Azaleas are a prime example. Azaleas are available in three types, in terms of their time of bloom: early, midseason and late. Early-blooming varieties usually bloom in early- to mid-April in North Georgia.

Expect midseason varieties to bloom from late-April to mid-May and late-season varieties to bloom after mid-May. Buying and planting varieties from each of these categories will extend the color show. Good gardening books usually list varieties according to their time of bloom.

Spring-flowering bulbs such as tulips and daffodils act much the same way. They come in early, midseason and late-season varieties. Buying the right varieties can extend their color several weeks.

And for season-long interest, look for plants that bloom for extended periods. A few to consider are knockout rose, "rose Creek" abelia, dianthus, "Miss Huff" lantana, "summer snowflake" viburnum, hellebores, asters, hollyhocks, daylily, phlox and Shasta daisy.

Billy Skaggs is an agricultural agent and Hall County Extension Coordinator. Phone: 770-531-6988. Fax: 770-531-3994.



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